Uighur Activists Say China Is Running Nearly 500 Detention Camps and Prisons in Xinjiang Based on Satellite Images

 In China, Australia, GDI, Defense, Infrastructure, Environment, France
  • A Uighur human rights group says that China has more than 500 invol­un­tary deten­tion cen­ters, pris­ons, and so-called “reed­u­ca­tion camps” in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, where mil­lions of Muslims and eth­nic minor­i­ty Uighurs live. 
  • Washington-based East Turkistan National Awakening Movement released the results of its year-long research project, which ana­lyzed satel­lite imagery and plot­ted the loca­tions of the cen­ters on a map. 
  • According to the group, cit­i­zens in Xinjiang “are fac­ing mass intern­ment unseen since the days of the Holocaust.” 
  • Estimates of the num­ber of peo­ple housed in these camps vary among inter­na­tion­al researchers and offi­cials, though a US offi­cial recent­ly esti­mat­ed that “at least a mil­lion but like­ly clos­er to 3 mil­lion cit­i­zens” out of Xinjiang’s pop­u­la­tion of about 10 mil­lion have been held in these deten­tion cen­ters.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home­page for more sto­ries.

A Uighur human rights group says that China has more than 500 invol­un­tary deten­tion cen­ters, pris­ons, and so-called “reed­u­ca­tion camps” in its north­ern autonomous region of Xinjiang.

The Washington-based East Turkistan National Awakening Movement released the results on Tuesday of its year-long research into China’s net­work of camps, pris­ons, and re-edu­ca­tion it uses to con­trol its eth­nic Muslim pop­u­la­tion. The human rights group advo­cates for the inde­pen­dence of East Turkestan.

Researchers at the group iden­ti­fied 465 cen­ters in Xinjiang, includ­ing “182 sus­pect­ed Concentration Camps, 209 sus­pect­ed pris­ons, and 74 sus­pect­ed Bingtuan labor camps” using satel­lite imagery from Google Earth.

According to the group, in Xinjiang, “pre­dom­i­nant­ly Muslim, eth­ni­cal­ly Turkic peo­ple are fac­ing mass intern­ment unseen since the days of the Holocaust.” 

Anders Corr, a for­mer US intel­li­gence ana­lyst who advised the group on their research, said that 40 per­cent of the sites found were not pub­licly dis­closed pre­vi­ous­ly, accord­ing to Agence France Presse

Assistant Secretary of US Defense Randall Schriver said in May that “at least a mil­lion but like­ly clos­er to 3 mil­lion cit­i­zens” out of Xinjiang’s pop­u­la­tion of about 10 mil­lion have been held in these deten­tion cen­ters, though the group believes the num­ber could be “much high­er” due to new satel­lite evi­dence of addi­tion­al pris­ons and labor camps. 

Adrian Zenz, a senior fel­low in China Studies at Washington’s Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation told Radio Free Asia last week that he spec­u­lates that China has built more than 1,000 “intern­ment camps” to house eth­nic minor­i­ty Uighurs and Muslims in Xinjiang. 

“I’m increas­ing­ly view­ing evi­dence that would indi­cate that my orig­i­nal esti­mate of at least one camp per admin­is­tra­tive unit between town­ship and pre­fec­ture lev­els, which adds up to 1,200, was accu­rate,” he claimed of the num­ber of deten­tion cen­ters in the region. 

RFA added that Zenz esti­mat­ed in March that 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple have been or are cur­rent­ly detained in these camps — rough­ly equal to about one in six adult cit­i­zens in Xinjiang. 

China says the camps offer “free vocational training,” while ex-prisoners describe psychological torture 

china uighur protest

A pro­test­er wears a mask paint­ed with Xinjiang or East Turkestan’s flag and tears of blood in Brussels in April 2018. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty

China has pre­vi­ous­ly denied the exis­tence of these camps but last year referred to them as “free voca­tion­al train­ing” that make life “col­or­ful.” 

Xinjiang gov­ern­ment chair­man Shohrat Zakir told Chinese state news agency Xinhua last year that the pur­pose of the camps were to “get rid of the envi­ron­ment and soil that breeds ter­ror­ism and reli­gious extrem­ism and stop vio­lent ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties from hap­pen­ing.”

He also said the camps pro­vid­ed train­ing on mak­ing cloth­ing and footwear, assem­bling elec­tron­ic prod­ucts, and hair­dress­ing.

But for­mer detainees of the camp have paint­ed an entire­ly dif­fer­ent pic­ture, one of phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture and reli­gious sup­pres­sion. 

Two Uighurs who had been inside those camps told BBC last year of the hor­rors that went on behind the heav­i­ly guard­ed walls of the deten­tion cen­ters. 

One man claimed he had been shack­led to a chair, deprived of sleep, and beat­en by police in his camp.

“They had thick wood­en and rub­ber batons, whips made from twist­ed wire, nee­dles to pierce the skin, pli­ers for pulling out your nails,” he said. 

Another man said peo­ple were forced to “sing pro-Chinese songs to get food” and said peo­ple he used to know well appeared after a while to “have lost their souls.” 

Leaked drone footage anony­mous­ly post­ed to YouTube last month appeared to show hun­dreds of male pris­on­ers in Xinjiang, tied up and wear­ing blind­folds. And cit­i­zens are under con­stant sur­veil­lance by tens of thou­sands of facial recog­ni­tion cam­eras and sur­veil­lance apps on their phones, accord­ing to reports.

Zenz told RFA that China sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased its intern­ment of cit­i­zens in 2018 and shift­ed its strat­e­gy from offer­ing so-called train­ing pro­grams to enforc­ing “invol­un­tary or coer­cive forms of labor.”

Calls for international boycott are growling louder

xinjiang stability

Stability is a bless­ing, Instability is a calami­ty, Yarkand, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China on September 20, 2012 in Yarkand, China. Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty has become more vocal in crit­i­ciz­ing China for its actions in Xinjiang, encour­ag­ing a boy­cott of prod­ucts export­ed from the region that are pos­si­bly made using forced labor. 

Some have point­ed to President Xi Jinping’s ambi­tious Belt and Road Initiative, a major glob­al trade plan which aims to con­nect the coun­try with new infra­struc­ture, as part of the increase in deten­tion of Uighurs in the region. 

Rushan Abbas, a Uighur activist in Virginia, told Business Insider in February that Uighur lands are “in the heart of the most key point of Xi Jinping’s sig­na­ture project.”

According to a report by the Center For Strategic & International Studies, around 84% of China’s cot­ton is pro­duced in Xinjiang, blur­ring the lines between tex­tiles that are eth­i­cal­ly sourced or those that are linked to labor camps. 

“The sit­u­a­tion in Xinjiang is so seri­ous, that it is nec­es­sary and war­rant­ed to call for an eth­i­cal boy­cott of any prod­ucts made in whole or in part in Xinjiang,” Zenz told RFA.

In October, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it halt­ed gar­ments pro­duced by Chinese man­u­fac­tur­er Hetian Taida Apparel over con­cerns that the prod­ucts were made using forced labor. The Associated Press report­ed that baby paja­mas bound for Costco may have also been pro­duced in labor camps. 

Two major Australian retail­ers, Cotton On and Target Australia, said last month that it had stopped sourc­ing cot­ton mate­ri­als from Xinjiang over human rights con­cerns. And the US black­list­ed 28 enti­ties linked to the sup­pres­sion of Uighers in Xinjiang and said it would impose a visa ban on offi­cials sus­pect­ed of human rights abus­es in the region. 

The glob­al com­mu­ni­ty has also pulled invest­ments from the region over human rights con­cerns. On Monday, The World Bank said it was scal­ing back devel­op­ment in Xinjiang because it spec­u­lat­ed that a $50 mil­lion edu­ca­tion grant it pro­vid­ed was being pumped into deten­tion cen­ters. 

In July, Chinese offi­cials said they released a major­i­ty of the peo­ple detained in its re-edu­ca­tion camps, though they did not offer specifics to back up their claim, which was met with wide­spread skep­ti­cism from glob­al experts and pol­i­cy­mak­ers.

Source: Business Insider (Military & Defense)

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